The project has been made upon the request of spider diviners in Somié, Cameroon, with the Arachnophilia community and its founding member Tomás Saraceno. All material published on the web/site remains the intellectual property of the diviners and people of Somié. Furthermore, all funds raised through Nggàm dù will be donated to a programme of local projects as detailed on the website.
Nggàm dù finds ways that recognise, support and share other forms of situated and embodied knowledges—both human and non-human—that sit outside hegemonic Western narratives and frameworks for understanding the world. Its intention is not to appropriate objects or ideas, but to preserve and elevate the knowledge and practices that the people of Somié have chosen to share. Crucially: in ways that they would like it to be presented and framed. Our intention is, above all else, to listen; to find ways to work with acute sensitivity, guided by a sense of reciprocity and justice.
The project stresses a consciousness and sensitivity to the violence of historic extractivist and appropriative approaches to encounters with non-European cultures. We advocate a radical change in praxis, enacted both through the methods and modes of interaction, a collective approach to the distribution of funds and of artistic control. Thus, the project ensures that any economic return is shared fully and directly with the village of Somié, for the benefit of local projects and the remuneration of work by spider diviners.
Bollo Pierre Tadios is a painter and spider diviner living and practicing in the village of Somié, Cameroon. Having been divining most of his adult life, Bollo learnt the practice of ŋgam dù from his father and uncle. Bollo’s family are connected to the Chief of Somié, so he has played a crucial role in village affairs – serving as a forest guard and helping to deter wildlife poaching in the area. Unlike many of his colleagues Bollo does not regularly practice other forms of divination. He knows some other types but prefers to use ŋgam dù since it is regarded as the most reliable.
Tomás Saraceno is an Argentine artist living in Berlin whose projects, consisting of floating sculptures, international collaborations, and interactive installations, propose a return to forms of inhabiting and sensing the environment that have been suppressed in the Capitalocene era. Collectively calling for environmental justices that enable interspecies cohabitation, Saraceno’s artistic collaborations open renewed relationships with the terrestrial, atmospheric, and cosmic realms—particularly through his community projects, Aerocene and Arachnophilia.
David Zeitlyn is a professor of anthropology at Oxford University who has been working with the Mambila people in Cameroon since 1985. Zeitlyn has been involved in a long-term exchange within the village, partly through his extensive research on Mambila divination. He has worked on connections between traditional religion and oratory at the village court (in which disputes are resolved through traditional oath taking), and sociolinguistic work on how families talk among themselves. His collaboration with the linguist Bruce Connell led to work on endangered languages in the area with students working in several neighbouring groups. He has worked with Cameroonian photographers resulting in work being exhibited in YaPhoto19, in London’s National Portrait gallery as part of Africa’05 and in 2021 a major exhibition in the UCLA Fower Museum.
Supported by David Zeitlyn and Penny Fraser, with Studio Tomás Saraceno, Aerocene and Arachnophilia, in particular Ollie George, Ally Bisshop, Sarah Kisner, Dario J Laganà, Lars Behrendt, Claudia Meléndez, Manuela Mazure and Jillian Meyer.
Consultation videos produced for the web/site’s launch were edited by Maximiliano Laina, Gabriela Sorbi, Agustín Kazah and Manuel Fernandez Lorea.
Website development by Howard Melnyczuk, Tulio Leal Velasquez.
A co-production with
The programme ‘Immersion’ was made possible by an initiative of the German Bundestag and with the support of the Minister of State for Culture and the Media.